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Living Lagom: 1

So, let’s start my little series on living a lagom life this year. First of all, perhaps we should define our terms: what is lagom?

P1020220 (5)Lagom is a Swedish word whose general meaning is about finding a personal balance that works for you and your lifestyle. This is often reflected in others who follow a lagom lifestyle, and you may see similarities in style, consumerism, eco-issues, work/life balance, relationships and a whole host of issues related to everyday living. It is often translated as “not too little, not too much, but just right” or “just enough”.

There are two schools of thought in the etymology of the word. The first, and the one that I like best, is that it stems from the Vikings, who when passing a horn of mead around the group ensured that no one was left out and that there was enough for everyone. You took a drink in the right amount, so that there was enough to go around. It was a way to ensure that the community stood strong, that no one took more than was their due, and that there was a sense of balance and equality to ensure the benefit of the whole. In this etymology, it is rooted in the words laget om, which means “around the team”. The second school of thought derives from the word lag, which means law. Following protocol and law allows everyone to live happily together, because everyone understands the boundaries.

There is a Swedish saying, lagom är bäst – lagom is best. Moderation and just the right amount is the best way forward for all.

Stones pile background. Scales balance. Balanced stones on the top of boulder. Decide problem. To weight pros and cons. Balance of stones on a blue sky stock imagesDo Swedes go to excess in anything? Of course. We’re all human. But it’s a philosophy, in a way, that is embedded in Swedish culture. I see it as akin to the values of moderation found within Buddhism. Finding that balance point where there is satisfaction, but not excess.

So I’ll be exploring lagom in this little blog series, talking about lagom in daily life. How can lagom be applied to your wardrobe, your house, your relationships, your work, your family, your exercise routine, your health, your diet? I’ll share my experiences with you, and also some of the resources that I find along the way. I hope you enjoy this little adventure with me, small but so satisfying, and totally lagom.

Recommended books:

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark

(The best book on Lagom, in my opinion).

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne

(My second favourite, but some pages are hard to read because of the colours behind the lettering.)

The Lagom Life: A Swedish Way of Living by Elisabeth Carlsson

(Filled with beautiful images and a taste of the lagom life.)

NØRTH: How to Live Scandinavian by Brontë Aurell

(My favourite book on all things Scandinavian. Written with wit and humour, and jam-packed with info about most everything to do with Scandinavian life.)

Looking Ahead to 2020

Globally we face some very challenging times. Whether it’s politics, climate change, religious persecution, war, famine, poverty and homelessness, we know that across the world things are moving in a direction which to many increases the fear for our future. The uncertainty, for ourselves, our loved ones and our planet makes us feel like we’ve lost hope, or that the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Generations of people are pitted against other generations, the old against the young. The blame game is heavily underway, and there are many casualties. Tempers are high, the stretching point is at near maximum. We head into a new decade filled with uncertainty and anxiety.

So what can we do about it? Here in the UK, we’ve been rocked by a recent Trump-esque election result. We’ve seen it happening across the world, with a swing to the right in other countries. There’s a lot of anger and blame raging across the political world. However, it’s not just in the UK and America: in India, in Australia, in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines, the hard right is winning. If we simply blame one leader or political party such as Labour in the UK or the Democrats in the US, we miss the main point that we need to address. We are working with a very unfair system, ruled by media oligarchs and the billionaire press that use lies and sleight of hand to win elections and the votes of those who would previously never cast their lot in that direction. We need to look to countries that are framing the model that we wish to achieve, such as Finland with their new Prime Minister and their resistance to fake news through a very effective digital literacy campaign that has been underway for the past few years for people of all ages. George Monibot explains this very well in his video for the website, Double Down News.  He also offers up the beginnings of a solution, at a grassroots level that seems to be emerging worldwide.

From my perspective, we also need to remember to close the ranks when it comes to our progressive, left-wing allies. In the UK, the Tories are extremely good at closing ranks when it comes to opposition, and on the other side, the opposing leftist or centrist parties are just too busy trying to bring each other down in order to take the Tories place. Instead of working together, they’re too busy fighting each other. It’s utterly ridiculous. No one will win against those odds.

So we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone who opposes the status quo. We need to support each other in order to succeed in creating a progressive, fair and equal system that works for everyone. How do we do that?

With our everyday words and deeds. It’s not just our vote in elections that matters. It’s how we live our lives. And yes, our lives will be altered and framed within the current political context, for sure. We’ll be worse off unless we’re part of the 1% that are receiving tax breaks and sending their money to offshore accounts. We’ll be fighting to put food on our table to feed our children, to keep our houses warm while receiving a tiny state pension, combating those who say that despite disability people need to return to work and then suffering the consequences horrendously while having their benefits cut or removed.  It’s not going to be an easy decade. But we can start at home, with each other, with our everyday words and deeds.

We can be kind to one another. We can support one another, despite political views, religion, race or creed. We can stand in solidarity for everyone in order to make this world a better place. It all starts with us, on a personal level. It means engaging in dialogue instead of closing it down because someone’s opinion is so different from our own. We have become so used to policing each other that it has led to a culture of echo chambers, where we just won’t listen to any other point of view or tolerate a different opinion. We know that We Are Right and that They are Wrong. We are creating such division from this perspective. We become good guys vs deplorables. How can we ever create unity when sowing the seeds of such discord?

Instead of looking out for number one, we look out for each other as well as ourselves. We see this working in Scandinavian countries, with a healthy social welfare system and free healthcare. It is a more egalitarian society than what we are currently witnessing in the UK and in the US. In Sweden, they have a wonderful word that encourages balance in everyday life. It is known as lagom, which means understanding the right balance. Not too much, not too little, but just enough. The word lagom has two potential origins: one from the Viking era, when a communal horn filled with mead was passed around and everyone took a small sip in order for there to be enough for everyone, and another possible origin, which derived from the Swedish word lag, meaning law. Both show an understanding of community and how rules and standards, both spoken and unspoken, can help us achieve the task of no one being left out or left behind.

And this is what I will personally be working with in 2020. I’ve already started, but I will be bringing the concept to the forefront of my consciousness in everything that I do. I might even start blogging about my adventures with lagom here, in order to keep my words and thoughts in right order, and to share them and receive feedback.

At the moment, I’m just beginning with a lagom attitude towards 2020. I know it will be tough, and for many people exceptionally difficult. I know I am blessed in many areas of my life. I will accept these blessings and return them to complete the cycle. There may be good luck or back luck ahead. There will be ups and downs, challenges and achievements. But working with lagom means that I work with balance. I’ve done so for many years with eastern philosophies, and so I’m experimenting with a different approach here.

It begins at home. It beings with daily interactions with people. When someone is railing at your political views, for instance, with lagom you can see that there is anger and misunderstanding, and that you can either get upset back or work towards the benefit of the whole. You can support those who need support, and get support back when you need it. It’s very similar to Druidic philosophy, of being a functioning part of an ecosystem, working for the benefit of the whole in a holistic sense. It’s not taking too much, and giving in return. Looking out for everyone.

So, my resolution last night was to incorporate more lagom into my life. In my relationship with my husband, my family, my friends, my community and the wider world. To meet the challenges that are coming with this balanced frame of mind, and to help to make this world a better place for all. To understand lagom in terms of running a household, a marriage, a business. To understand lagom in politics, culture and religion. To live lagom and not just think about it. I may disagree with someone, I may want different things out of life and for my community, but I will learn to work with people in a lagom manner in order to benefit the whole. To find lagom in the raging hormones of my menopausal, 45-year old body. To find lagom in work, and in fundraising and charity. To find lagom in the food that I eat. To find lagom in my environment, and spend as much time as I can ensuring that it’s not just the human community that I am applying this philosophy to, but to the entire sphere of my own shared existence.

I look forward to this journey, even though I know that the challenges are there, waiting for me and for everyone. But I have hope, coupled with a good dose of reality, in a very lagom kind of way.

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Reflections on 2019

I type this as the sun sets on one of the last days of the year. The mist is rolling in, the sky changing from blue to yellow to pink. The pine trees stand tall, silhouetted against the fading light. A flock of pigeons fly across the thin crescent of the new moon. A hush is descending on the little village, and the candles are lit in my home.

Looking out the window at the hazy purple trees in the distance, their bare branches still in the evening light, I reflect upon the year that has just gone. My dreams have been strange of late, perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to the mental ruminations that winter and the closing of the year bring. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m just getting over a nasty cold, and my husband is currently fighting it. The cats are doing well. The family back in Canada are doing well, apart from one tiding of bad news and ill health. But we are strong, we will meet all challenges head-on, staying positive whilst being realistic. I thank my family heartily for teaching me these lessons. I am too easily blown by the wind, feeling it all. Their Dutch practicality is my steady anchor when the storms of emotion hit hard.

So too is this beautiful land where I live, and I give thanks to the trees and the sky, the sea and the heath, the deer and the owls that keep me company day and night. Even as I long for my familial home on a daily basis, this beauty right here, before my eyes in this very moment is what is real. This is what I must engage with, this is what I must feel; otherwise, I am simply a ghost in this landscape.

I am making friends with the muntjac deer who visit me every evening, expecting their peanuts. There are two males, Douglas and the smaller one, Jeffrey. Sometimes Doug’s partner comes with her two children, one a year old faun and one born late this summer. I do not yet know their names. Occasionally, Freya the fallow deer visits, her long legs moving her gracefully across the lawn, her carriage always like a queen. The wren sometimes sits on the picnic table when I am washing the dishes, giving me a wonderful look at his tiny body, so round and soft.

So what has this year brought? It’s been quite a calm and steady year. The first half was filled with the final work and then anticipation over the release of my new book, The Book of Hedge Druidry. Summer and early autumn was filled with promotional work, and hearing the reviews that were coming in. The Book of Hedge Druidry went to No. 1 in its category on Amazon many times over the last six months, for which I was overjoyed. I give my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write to me personally, or leave a review. So many lovely, wonderful people from across the world have reached out, and it’s so nice to know that there is resonance with the words after you release them out into the world.

A crow flies across the deepening sky, followed by two airplanes high above, their contrails glowing pink before quickly disappearing in the high pressure. So many planes tonight, flying across the southern sky. More and more carbon, going into the air, with cheaper and cheaper flights. I worry for the future, I really do. Taking a deep breath, I ground and remind myself that I am doing all that I can, and to be here in the moment. I know that next summer I will be on a plane myself, for a very special family occasion. I cannot judge without being judgemental.

What other things have happened this year? Well, in late autumn, a creative burst came through in a completely different media than usual. Photography and video has inspired me these last few months, and it’s nice to take a break from the written word. Expressing myself in different mediums has widened my horizons, and made me realise that I am more than just Jo, the Druid.

Six airplanes in my small field of vision, as I look out across the back garden.

Douglas and Jeffrey have arrived, and are eating peanuts.

My cats are sleeping at my feet, happy and content.

My husband is downstairs, watching the hilarious soapbox races on the television.

It is safe to say that my world has grounded itself in reality of late. The dreaming druid is still there, but she is sitting side by side with many others. She is sharing a table with many aspects of my soul, and there is food enough for all to share. The call of my ancestors is still strong, and my heart hearkens to a heathen past while my head remains firmly in the present.

Other things that have happened: I’ve revamped my website and this blog, and opened up an Instagram account. My Youtube channel is going strong.  I also have a Patreon page, where people can support me in the work that I do, for whichever medium I creatively express myself in, day in and day out. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, because for so long my life was filled with simply trying to survive. There were so many ideas in my head that had to be held back because I needed to make a living first and foremost. These last five years have really shifted that way of being, and I am eternally grateful. It feels like I’m opening up, that more and more creativity is coming, in various forms. I have music planned, and art. In the new year, there will be a place on my website where you can order prints of my photography. There is much to come, by the grace of the gods and my own will.

The room is darkening considerably, and I will have to stop writing soon, for the glare will become too strong for my eyes in the candlelit room. I shall take a moment to sit with the candles, and meditate upon what has gone, what currently is, and what may come. I shall be grateful for every moment, every taste that life has to offer, in every spectrum. There may be trouble ahead, there may be smooth sailing. We cannot know for certain, but we can steer the course of lives as best we can. As the peachy sky fades into grey, then indigo and then black, I know that the stars will shine tonight, at least for a little while. And after that? Who can say? I only know that I am thankful for my many blessings.

To everyone who has followed this blog over the year, and some over many years, to everyone who has yet to come into my life, to everyone who has supported me and my work, I give you my heartfelt thanks. I could not have done it without you. There is a relationship right here, though it is often silent, and hidden. But it is here, between you and I, right here in this moment as you read these words. And I honour you for this moment, this shared moment.

May the coming year bring you peace and happiness in the best of times, and strength and courage in the worst. May we all stand shoulder to shoulder, to work with each other to make this world a better place. May we all walk in beauty.

Love, Jo. x

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